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  • Writer's pictureKamil Shafiq

How Poket Transforms Data Collection

If you’ve landed on this blog post it’s because you have some interest in what Poket is doing. We’ve been awfully quiet, refining a data collection technology that’s now been deployed in 20+ countries, from Bangladesh to Vietnam. This year, we’re excited to share what that looks like…better late than never? 🙃

So, let’s jump in. But before that, let’s zoom out - some quick numbers from the Digital 2024 Global Overview Report published last week: 

  • We are now 8 billion humans on earth

  • 66% of us now have access to the internet

  • 97% of these internet users access via smartphone  

  • 43% of us live in rural areas

The last point is important - rural communities are often poorly connected and data scarce, which is a problem. Governments, NGOs, businesses and researchers all need some type of data about these places to better deliver public services, aid, products, etc. Unfortunately, the way that they collect local data today is less than ideal. 

Challenges with Current Data Collection Methods: Costs, Frequency & Accuracy   

Let’s use the example of an Agriculture NGO that needs to collect data about how a genetically-enhanced rice crop is performing on a farm in rural Pakistan. To collect this data, the NGO needs to:

  1. Hire a field researcher

  2. Pay for and facilitate their training

  3. Pay for any equipment they may need (tablet, phone, data. etc.) 

  4. Pay for their transportation

  5. Pay for time spent knocking on doors 

Due to all these costs, this type of field data can’t be collected often – maybe three to four times per year if the NGO is well-funded. This presents another major challenge: recall bias. 

When the field researcher knocks on a farmer’s door, for example, and asks them how that one rice crop they provided performed four months ago, the farmer won’t likely remember accurately. This is no fault of theirs - we can’t expect a busy farmer to accurately answer detailed questions about one specific crop that was harvested several months ago. Farmers are inundated with other priorities and have no real incentive to accurately document their experience growing the rice crop. 

How Poket Improves Data Accuracy, Unlocks New Insights & Reduces Costs

Luckily, times are changing. Smartphone access is growing exponentially, particularly in areas that are underdeveloped and have never accessed the internet before: as of 2024, 49% of the rural population is now online - a massive 7.2% increase YoY. This new infrastructure presents an exciting idea: 

What if we could incentivize the farmer to self-report data using a smartphone, straight from the farm, in real-time? 

This is essentially the software that Poket has built:

Poket is an intelligent field survey software that incentivizes last-mile users to self-report data. 

Using a process like this eliminates the challenges outlined previously. By empowering the rural farmer in Pakistan to self-report data:

  • The NGO saves on data collection costs and is able to pass some of those savings down to reward the farmer for their data 

  • Data can be reported much more frequently (ex. daily/weekly) - this unlocks new, granular insights that were previously unavailable

  • The recall bias issue is erased, and data accuracy improves

Moving From Extractive Data Collection to Community Empowerment

Finally, this new process also enables community-feedback loops. The limitations in our previous example made data collection inherently extractive: data was collected from communities, amalgamated into reports, then siloed internally or shared with funding agencies/governments. Very seldom would the data be shared back with farmers in a format that would allow them to make more data-informed decisions based on the inputs of their peers. 

Fortunately, cultural paradigms around data collection are shifting. There is a growing movement focused on decolonizing data collection, and making community members the stewards of the data they generate.   

If we can develop tools for incentivizing community members to self-report data, we can also use these tools as a channel for them to receive relevant, crowdsourced data back. At Poket, we enable this via community-based maps, dashboards and resources. These features allow community members (like our farmer) to access key insights from businesses, NGOs, governments, or even other farmers that can directly improve livelihood and safety. 

The unit economics of this type of community-led monitoring/reporting also happen to make much more sense for organizations collecting data. Aside from that, the incentivization/gamification of data collection also improves engagement metrics and response rates. At Poket, we enable all types of incentives, from prepaid airtime, gift cards, mobile money, and in the future, even digital currencies - more to come on that.  

What’s Next?

Aside from our farmer example above, we’re excited to share many use-cases that can be enabled with this technology. Say, a patient in a poorly mapped community searching for affordable therapeutics using real-time, hyper-local, crowdsourced pricing and availability data. Or, a refugee fleeing persecution that may rely on nearby reports on safe-spaces from other refugees during a political crisis. It could even just be a student participating in a research study to map observations of tobacco litter in their community and make it a cleaner, safer space for all. 

Journeys like these are what we’ve been enabling at Poket, and are excited to share in the coming months. So, stay tuned as we unfold more stories of change and innovation, driven by the power of community-driven data…and some pretty slick software!  

Interested in learning more? Get in touch with us by filling out the form below:

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